Policy Brief

An update on progress towards achieving SDG 8, 2023

The 2030 Agenda as expressed in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals embodies the spirit and purpose of the Decent Work Agenda and its central role in advancing human-centred development and social justice. The strategic objectives of decent work – employment, social protection, rights and standards, and social dialogue – are reflected in many of the SDGs’ 169 targets, most notably those of SDGs 1, 3, 4, 5, 8,10, 12 and 16. Together, the SDG goals and targets framed an integrated global agenda to advance social justice and sustainable development in tandem in recognition of their strong interdependence and potential synergy.

SDG 8 is the goal that captures this interdependence and synergy best by explicitly addressing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. It encourages countries to pursue interrelated strategies that feed a cumulative dynamic process – a positive SDG 8 “policy spiral” which the ILO described in its 2019 report Time to Act for SDG 8: Integrating Decent Work, Sustained Growth and Environmental Integrity.

The 2030 Agenda calls for both action from member States and renewed multilateral cooperation to achieve such balanced socio-economic progress in solidarity and with mutual responsibilities, so that no one is left behind. In this respect, it is useful to recall a principle stated in the Preamble of the ILO’s founding Constitution: “the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries”.

“Goal number 8, on sustainable economic growth and decent work for all, brings together the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of the SDGs. These three aspects need to be addressed simultaneously if we are to succeed in our collective ambition of realizing sustainable development and social justice for all. A world with equitable growth, social justice, and a just transition to greener economies for all is possible.” - Gilbert Houngbo, ILO Director General

Halfway to 2030, the SDGs are in a dire state. The Special Edition of the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023 reveals that “the latest global-level data and assessments from custodian agencies paint a concerning picture: of the approximately 140 targets that can be evaluated, half of them show moderate or severe deviations from the desired trajectory. Furthermore, more than 30 per cent of these targets have experienced no progress or, even worse, regression below the 2015 baseline.”

Progress on SDG 8 fits this general pattern. In 2019, the ILO developed an integrated measurement instrument for SDG 8 including relevant targets and indicators from other SDGs, thereby enabling measurement of progress and prospects across these three dimensions (ILO, 2019a). This month the ILO released a follow-up report that updates and builds on that previous work by analysing the prospects for countries to achieve each of the economic, social and environmental aspects of SDG 8 by 2030 based on their performance between 2010 and 2022.3 The report traces the disappointing state of global prospects for achieving SDG 8 and identifies certain patterns and imbalances in these prospects across countries and across these three dimensions.

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Published September 2023

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